3 Hacks to Accelerate Software Development
Roadblocks are inevitable in every setting, ensuring those roadblocks are not drastically impacting delivery can be challenging. Yet, there are 3 straightforward and relatively simple hacks that, when utilized, can quickly help teams make dramatic positive changes. Therefore, it is essential to look at the entire process of what it takes to deliver a product, then go after any unnecessary delays while making flow metrics more transparent in order to accelerate the development process dramatically.
Create a Whole System View
Make it a priority to get out of your siloed department and use tracking tools to see where the business needs start and where the final value is delivered. This is sometimes referred to as Systems Thinking as is the case with ScaledAgile. Pick the last ten pieces of work or features that were delivered and trace them back to where they started. Continue to follow the process, even if it takes you outside of your organization. For example, if you’re tracing a healthcare product feature that is needed to ensure compliance with a government regulation, you should not stop until you find out when the regulation was published.
The next step is to map out the entire process, including how long it took for every step to be completed, all the way until it delivers value to the customer. This could include analysis tasks, sitting in an inbox, waiting for an architectural review meeting, getting approval, defining requirements, development, testing, and so on. From that, create a spreadsheet of all these steps and delays along the way so you can see the whole journey; it is essential that your spreadsheet portrays the value-adding activities and their corresponding time lengths, i.e., “eight hours of coding to make a value-adding change.” In addition, it should clearly display where there are delays in the process, for instance, “four weeks in compliance team intake.”
Do not be surprised if the value-adding steps only make up 3-10% of the overall duration. It’s normal to discover inefficiencies in your development process, and the next hack will directly address these
Go After the Delays
Because only a small number of steps will actually add value, that means there will be a lot of delays and unnecessary steps that can be removed from the process. Look at your map of the development process and find the delays, rubber stamp approvals, long queues for a particular resource, and other time-wasting steps.
Once you’ve identified these problem-steps, brainstorm ways to either eliminate them or reduce their impact. For example, a company could have a 2–3-month delay where an operational manager reviews newly published Medicaid regulations to determine if they impacted operations or IT to avoid having the IT teams waste their time understanding all new regulations. This delay could be eliminated by having the IT, PM, and business analyst attend the weekly recent regulation review.
However, you want to begin this process by working under the radar, so you do not appear to throw teams under the bus or get overloaded with differentiating opinions. Employees, in general, do not like their departments associated with bottlenecks or delays. Therefore, biased opinions are likely to be raised, diminishing the accuracy of the results. Avoiding finger pointing is paramount as you initiate this process; you need to achieve shared ownership of the whole system with everyone involved and try to present the critical delays to all the different parties later. Work with the leaders and team members around the delays to find creative solutions to eliminate the delays. By focusing on the delays, you do not have to change the value-added step or how people do their work.
Make the Flow Transparent
Make the end-to-end flow metrics and durations visible to all stakeholders, including presenting the metrics to them on a weekly basis. Do not just publish an average; post the times for all work items as they finish and what is in process. Many people think this is too much information and publish “Our average cycle time is twenty days,” but this does not really tell you anything.
You will find that leaders and team members will fix problems on their own once they realize they are part of a more extensive system. Hence, the flow metrics published must be detailed enough for employees to identify their work contribution and display how it links to the large picture by feeding into overarching metrics.
When trying to accelerate your development process, you can start by using the first hack, analyzing the entire process and, in the end, find where the business needs are triggered. It is vital to start with this step, in order to identify delays later.
The second hack is to focus on delays identified, then eliminate the bottlenecks and minimize the delays, resulting in greater adaptability to regulatory concerns.
The third hack is to create a workflow framework that lacks delays while being more transparent and easier to visualize and track.
These three hacks dramatically accelerate the development process without changing how teams work; an example can be found in one of our recent case studies looked at we did for a healthcare company. Using these three hacks, we managed to foster a culture of compliance, starting with aligned strategic intent and multidisciplinary leadership buy-in and support. From there, we established new streamlined regulatory intake and delivery processes across the enterprise that yielded a 100-day reduction in our project life cycle, bringing our clients and the company into compliance—implementing these three hacks resulted in doubled project delivery speed and a 400% increase in throughput without allocating additional resources.